Pac-12 M5: 02.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2013

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  1. What a super game yesterday, right? A back-and-forth affair featuring a terrific comeback from an early deficit and tons of great plays made by both teams. Sure, maybe the offenses seemed to do whatever they wanted to against overmatched defenses, but those kinds of games can be plenty of fun. Yeah, that Stanford eight-point win over Oregon State sure was entertaining. Between Eric Moreland’s shotblocking, Joe Burton’s creative passing and Chasson Randle pouring in shots from deep, the Cardinal and the Beavers churned out yet another thrilling game. Please, basketball gods, find a way to match these two squads up in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament; this five-twelve thing these two teams got going on right now will do just fine.
  2. With Stanford now having strung together three straight wins in the span of eight days and somehow dug their offense out of the mothballs in the process, the Cardinal are not a team that anybody wants to see show up on their schedule right now. But does Johnny Dawkins need to keep his team winning in order to get him another season on The Farm? Miles Bennett-Smith of The Stanford Daily asks the hard questions about the likable coach, noting the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances, the failure to show appreciable improvement from year-to-year and losses to teams at the back-end of the conference standings. But, if Dawkins can keep this team playing like it has for the past week, all of these questions can get put on hold again.
  3. Last week we were discussing the possibility that Utah, despite looking like an improved team, might not match last year’s total of three conference wins this year. On Saturday, however, they turned in a strong performance, running out to a big early lead against Colorado (the Utes led by as many as 22) before hanging on down the stretch for a three-point win. Freshman Jordan Loveridge, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed the game with a knee injury, but sophomore Dallin Bachynski, who had been taking a “break from competition” for a couple of games due to an issue of a personal nature, did return, earning ten minutes in Loveridge’s absence. Junior college transfer Renan Lenz also got a boost in playing time due to Loveridge’s misfortune, earning the start and 18 minutes, but it was freshman Jeremy Olsen who had the biggest impact in replacing Loveridge, going for 12 points in just 14 minutes of action.
  4. Kevin Parrom was ejected from Arizona’s Saturday night game against Washington State for a “flagrant two” foul on DaVonte Lacy early in the game. Parrom hit Lacy in the fast with a closed hand while fighting over a rebound and was ejected by the officials after they looked at the video. Sean Miller noted he was “very disappointed” with his senior guard and said that Parrom embarrassed himself by retaliating against Lacy for a previous slight. Miller will look at the video and meet with Parrom before deciding on any further potential punishment, with being held out of Wednesday’s home game against Stanford a possibility.
  5. Usually the closer a recruit gets to decision-making time, the fewer schools he has on his list of potential landing spots. But, for elite 2013 recruit Aaron Gordon, he’s going the opposite direction. After trimming his list of suitors to three – Arizona, Washington and Kentucky – late last year, Gordon has now added Oregon to his list, according to Rivals.com. This is, of course, good news for Dana Altman and the Ducks and may reflect positively on what they have done so far this season, but it remains to be seen where exactly he’ll wind up. But, with three Pac-12 schools on the list, we’ll admit that we’re rooting for the chance to get a good look at this guy next season on a tour of Pac-12 stadiums and arenas. Arizona Desert Swarm has a look at the pros and cons of each possible landing spot on Gordon’s list.
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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume III

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2013

Just about one-third of the way through our semester, Oregon is the favorite pupil, having earned all As in their exams. Join Professor Pac as we once again break down our class and see who’s joining the Ducks at the front of the class and who’s in the corner with the dunce cap.

Oregon – A

Before we give props to the Ducks for their 5-0 conference start and vault to the favorite position in the conference, let’s take a minute to mourn the loss of the full 18-game home-and-away round-robin of the Pac-10. You see, with UO’s win at UCLA this week and home win against Arizona last week, the Ducks have wrapped up this seasons’ meeting with those two teams. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bruins will get a chance for revenge, at least until and unless they meet up in Vegas come mid-March. But, that’s not the Ducks fault. No, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do early and they’ve set themselves up well. Now, they’ve still got more than two-thirds of the conference schedule remaining, but here are their remaining road games in conference play: Stanford, Cal, Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Utah. They’ll be favorites in all of those games, as well as all of their home games. Sure, there are probably a couple of losses in the mix there somewhere, but barring some significant slide that Dana Altman-coached teams are not known for, the Ducks are a heavy favorite to be the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

Focus on: Jonathan Loyd. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis is the rightful recipient of plenty of positive buzz regarding his play, but the diminutive junior backup deserves some credit for accepting his decreased minutes and filling his role. Sure, he can’t shoot a lick. And his turnovers are through the roof this season. But you can see that his defensive intensity has carried over to his freshman pupil and he always brings energy aplenty when he’s on the court. And, consider this: a 5’8” he swatted away a Larry Drew II fastbreak layup tattempt this weekend

Looking ahead: The Ducks host the Washington schools this week and Ken Pomeroy puts the chances that they win each game somewhere north of 85%. Beware the letdown, Ducks.

Arizona – A-

For three quarters of their battle with in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the ‘Cats had a battle on their hands, played basically to a draw. But over the last 10 minutes, a time that coincided almost exactly with Mark Lyons coming back in the game (and, with Lyons drawing the fourth foul on Jahii Carson), they outscored the Sun Devils by 15 and equaled the biggest defeat ASU has suffered this season. Over those ten minutes, Lyons repeatedly got to the hoop, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists in likely his best 10-minute stretch as the UA point guard. The problem is the previous 30 minutes, wherein Lyons had 12 points on 11 field goal attempts, zero assists and four turnovers. Sure, he’s one heck of a closer, but as the season ramps up come March, the ‘Cats will need a more complete performance.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2013

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  1. Since the firing of Kevin O’Neill on Monday morning, coaches on the hot seat are on the minds of many around the conference. Bud Withers of The Seattle Times points to Craig Robinson, Johnny Dawkins and Ken Bone as the three remaining Pac-12 coaches most likely to be relieved of their duties following the season, and one of the factors that could play a part in their departures is the relative disinterest of the fan bases, especially at Stanford and Washington State, where small crowds have become a theme. Of note is that Ben Howland is missing from Withers’ list, but rest assured, barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (meaning at least past the first weekend), Howland’s position will be reevaluated once the season ends.
  2. Continuing to mine that O’Neill theme, the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a piece about how the state of UA basketball could have been much different had previous events turned out differently. To begin with, O’Neill was the interim head coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08, and, were it not for a change of heart on Olson’s part, the plan was to make O’Neill the head man when Olson retired. When that plan fell through, O’Neill wound up free to take the USC job when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned in the wake of recruiting allegations. And, in that whole regime change, guys who had been committed to USC, namely Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, wound up de-committing and instead enrolling at Arizona, became key cogs in the 2011 Elite Eight team. Solomon Hill was also at one point committed to Tim Floyd and USC, but he backed out of that and switched his allegiance to Arizona prior to the coaching change. In short, were it not for a couple simple twists of fate involving O’Neill, the present face of Arizona basketball would look significantly different.
  3. Aside from that, you know, we actually had some games in the conference tonight. Where Wednesday games were sort of a one-off rivalry-game-only type of thing in the past, these are a regular occurrence every week this year. It takes some getting used to, sure, but really, basketball spread out more evenly through the week? I ain’t complaining. Washington State kicked things off last night by raining down fire from deep on Utah on the way to the Cougs’ first conference win of the season. Coug Center’s got your round-up of all the action, including Mike Ladd’s career night. It’s worth noting that Ladd is starting to pick up the pace offensively and it is he, rather than more popular possibilities like DaVonte Lacy or Royce Woolridge, who has stepped up as the second option on this team behind Brock Motum. Ladd has now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging better than 16 points per night over that span.
  4. As Sabatino Chen’s desperation three-pointer banked in at the buzzer at the end of Colorado’s conference opener, it appeared that the Buffaloes were ready to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. Almost literally since that exact moment, not much has gone right for CU. Moments later, that shot was perhaps erroneously waved off. Soon thereafter the Buffs folded in overtime of that game. And since that night, they’ve proceeded to drop three of their next four, stumbling to a 1-4 conference start, including last night’s 10-point loss at Washington. But, while Colorado gets much of the attention for their sudden failures, the Huskies are out to a surprising 4-0 conference start. But, as Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times notes, while past Husky teams have made their mark with style and flair, this vintage of UW is getting it done with grit, hustle and smarts. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they’re overachieving this year, as opposed to their almost annual recent underachievements.
  5. Lastly, on a day that wasn’t all that great for Oregon sports, there was bad news for the basketball program as well when it came to light that the prep school that 2013 recruit Cristiano Felicio is currently attending may be under scrutiny for its legitimacy as an educational institution. And, the crazy part about this story is that may not be the worst part about it. Aside from possibly being little more than a scam perpetrated on talented basketball players, the president of the school is under investigation for physically abusing some of the schools players by subjecting them to “hands and feet bound with zip ties” and “clothes pins attached to their nipples.” Yikes.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012

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  1. Yesterday was Monday, meaning a pair of new polls were released to lift fans from their post-weekend doldrums. Arizona was of course the highlight for Pac-12 fans, coming in at number four in the AP and fifth in the coaches poll. The argument could be made that there were four Mountain West teams better than the top Pac-12 team at most points in 2011-12, so that shows you just how far the top-tier of our conference has come in a year. The Wildcats are one of just seven undefeated teams ranked in the Top 25. The only other team without a loss is Wyoming, who comes in at #29 in the AP and #30 in the coaches.
  2. Washington State coach Ken Bone has reinstated sophomore guard Brett Kingma following a possession of marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension in late October. The Cougars could certainly use some assistance from Kingma, as DaVonte Lacy has been the only reliable scorer in the Coug backcourt. Kingma was a freshman at Oregon in the 2011-12 season, but transferred within the conference after playing just 9.8 MPG that season. He was arrested in the middle of preseason camp on possession of “several grams” of marijuana, as well as exhibiting the effects of consuming alcohol in a public place.
  3. After taking a 10-day break for Finals, Utah will return to the court tonight to face SMU. Head coach Larry Krystowiak and the Utes focused on a few different items during the layoff, with an emphasis coming in taking care of the ball and rebounding. They’ve turned the ball over at a clip of 14.4 miscues per game, including 17 in their odd, previous meeting with the Mustangs. SMU dropped Utah by a score of 62-55 in that one, but Krystowiak and company will have a chance to avenge the loss in a conference play-like second game of a home-and-home.
  4. UCLA got a nice surprise on Monday morning when former Bruin great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to the team during its shootaround. Coach Ben Howland asked the all-time scoring leader in the NBA to speak to the team after taping an interview for a local news program. The current Bruins exclaimed that it was an “eye-opening experience” and a clear reminder of the legacy the UCLA program holds. The Bruins, who have started the season a disappointing 7-3, host Long Beach State tonight.
  5. It may seem silly to think about for a team ranked as high as Arizona is, but Pac-12 fans always seem to cringe nowadays when a trap game arrives on the schedule. The Wildcats are doing the best to avoid that situation, quickly getting back to business to prepare for tonight’s meeting with Oral Roberts. The game comes sandwiched in between last Saturday’s thriller against Florida and a trip to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, where the Cats could face a pair of high-profile teams in Miami (FL) and San Diego State. But first up are the Golden Eagles, a team that won 27 games a year ago. As the article points out, ORU faces its own challenges preparing for the match-up, having to shake off both mental and physical rust that comes from not playing a game in nearly two weeks.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2012

  1. Gonzaga’s last second win over Washington State on Wednesday night goes down as one of the best games of the young season so far, and while Ken Bone and the Cougars aren’t big on the concept of the moral victory against a bitter rival, there are some good things they can take away from that game. First and foremost, their stars stepped up in a big way. Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy combined for five threes in a four-and-a-half minute stretch to bring the Cougs back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game and set up the final scramble. And if WSU has any plans to turn around a slow start to the year, it will need to be on the backs of those two. The other big thing is that, while this team will be without a traditional point guard the whole year, Bone seems to have cobbled together a workable solution. Mike Ladd seems to do most of the play-making in the halfcourt set, but guys like Royce Woolridge, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Lacy have all pitched in and assembled a good point-guard-by-committee group that is doing an excellent job limiting turnovers and getting WSU into their sets. It was bumpy at the start of the year, but the Gonzaga loss proved to me, at least, that the situation is workable.
  2. Meanwhile, Utah, another team expected to finish near the bottom of the conference, was able to come up with its best performance of the year in blowing out Boise State. On a night when the Utes honored former head coach Rick Majerus prior to the game, Utah center Jason Washburn said “we felt like Coach Majerus was with us all night; he was right on the bench with us, smiling down.”  Washburn went 6-of-6 from the field to pace an incredibly hot shooting night for the Utes, in which they shot a ridiculous 78.8% eFG. Block U calls the win the best by the program in the last four years, and, although I could nitpick, it is being taken as a sign by the Ute faithful that Larry Krystkowiak has got this ship headed in the right direction.
  3. We’ve talked a lot about Mark Lyons over the last few days, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News has his own take on his transition to the point, which includes the unconvincing argument of “hey, they’re beating a lot of bad teams by a lot of points!” But, DeCourcy does make the point that Lyons is never really the sole ballhandler on the floor for Arizona and that Sean Miller is quite pleased with Lyons’ production. I would maybe go even one step further and say that, while Lyons is the closest thing to a point guard on the team, very rarely is he tasked with being the initiator of the halfcourt offense, a role that just as often falls to either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson. Lyons may spend a bit more time with the ball in his hands this year than he did last year playing with Tu Holloway at Xavier, but really, Miller hasn’t exactly tried to rebuild Lyons from the ground up.
  4. Even with UCLA’s struggles out of the gate, Shabazz Muhammad still thinks his team is going to make an impact in the Pac-12 this season, even if it has been relegated to sleeper status by their early losses. He told the Petros and Money show on Fox Radio on Wednesday how he feels about the rest of the season. But, the big takeaway from Muhammad’s comments (other than the overwhelming use of the word “really”) may be that Ben Howland has “become a players’ coach.” Muhammad ties that comment to the change that encourages the team to get out in transition more, and it is true that UCLA’s averaging about three more possessions per game this year than last, but certainly Howland is still trying to figure out the sweet spots on both ends of the floor for this team.
  5. Another team that has earned the title “sleeper team” in the Pac-12 is Oregon, off to a 7-1 start behind the production of an all-freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. While senior leader E.J. Singler is quick to praise his younger players, Dana Altman, ever the coach, sees the need for better consistency and better shot selection out of the backcourt duo. Still, he sees them as key cogs in the long-term plans for the Ducks. And, an already deep and talented team expects to get even deeper and more talented, when freshman Arik Armstead is expected to join the team in January. Armstead, a defensive tackle for the Ducks football team, won’t join the team until after Oregon’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl (January 3 against Kansas State) and it’ll take some time for him to get into basketball shape and learn the ins and outs of the teams’ sets, but he’s been spending a bit of time working with team managers. Just how much of an impact he’ll have is unknown, especially with a now deep Ducks big man rotation, but you can never have too much talent, can you?
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Pac 12 M5: 11.21.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on November 21st, 2012

  1. Although Colorado and Tad Boyle are pleased with their early season performance and championship in the Charleston Classic, not everyone is content on the Buffaloes. Wesley Gordon, a surprising redshirt freshman who many thought would impact the Buffaloes this year due to their lack of depth in the front court, has not been able to help the Buffaloes early on this year. Gordon chose to redshirt, but in the final of the classic against Murray State, the Buffaloes’ Andre Roberson and Josh Scott both got into foul trouble and Colorado had to rely on players like Xavier Johnson and Jeremy Adams to step up. Neither Adams Nor Johnson are 6’8″ and 225 pounds like Gordon and neither has the defensive ability that Gordon possesses. Even though Gordon did choose this on his own for betterment of the program, early on, he seems to be adjusting to his decision slowly.
  2. With the Oregon Ducks losing three starters in Devoe Joseph, Garret Sim, and Olu Ashaolu last year to graduation, there were doubts about this team, but the defense has picked up the slack to start off the year. For the second consecutive game, Oregon held their opposition to 20 points in the first half. Adding Arsalan Kazemi to a team with Tony Woods up front certainly has helped. The Ducks have registered 40 steals in their first four games and blocked 17 shots. Even better for Dana Altman, the players believe they have a long way to go still on defense, which isn’t good news for the rest of the Pac-12.
  3. The other team in Oregon, the Oregon State Beavers, are still dealing with the season-ending injury of Angus Brandt. Coach Craig Robinson seems unfazed by the injury as he still believes his team can make the NCAA Tournament. In Brandt’s absence, the Beavers will have to use more of the 6’9″  freshman Olaf Schaftnaar off the bench and most likely start other 6’7″ freshman Jarmal Reid in Brandt’s place. Additionally, the Beavers will need more out of Joe Burton, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier. The Beavers are fine from a depth standpoint to replace Brandt, but they’ll need to improve their overall play up front to truly make Craig Robinson forget Brandt’s injury.
  4. As if the Washington State Cougars didn’t have enough trouble last night, getting dominated by Kansas 78-41, they also lost DaVonte Lacy to an apparent knee injury. Lacy left the game after only five minutes and was unable to play tonight in the Cougars’ 55-54 loss to Texas A&M, a result that could have changed were able to play. No news has come out yet on Lacy’s injury as he will be evaluated today in Pullman, but a loss of a starter and 8.5 PPG so far this year would be a major problem for the Cougars if he’s out for a prolonged period of time. Given that was Lacy is a major contributor for the team-wide project of finding a replacement for the dismissed Reggie Moore, the WSU problems at the lead guard position may have just gotten worse.
  5. Everything is still the same for Sean Miller down in Arizona. If you can shoot the lights out and score on offense, it won’t matter if you can’t play defense. That’s exactly Kevin Parrom‘s dilemma. Parrom went 5-5 from three putting up 15 points in 20 minutes, but Sean Miller said his playing time will be predicated on how he plays defense. The Wildcats gave up 14 threes to Long Beach and Parrom’s guarding of Long Beach’s shooting guards was a main reason for this. Parrom knows he has to improve on defense, and if he does, he will continue to see the floor. If not, guys like Jordin Mayes and freshman Gabe York are more than willing to steal some minutes.
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Pac-12 M5:11.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

  1. Pac-12 basketball exhibition games are generally meaningless affairs where a big school beats up on an overmatched foe while the former’s head coach tinkers around with different lineups and different styles. Usually the Pac-12 team wins going away and no one loses too much sleep about the result one way or the other. Still, valuable information can be gleaned from some of these games: Which returnee has made the biggest strides, which of the newcomers can make an impact early in their careers, and who is getting passed up for playing time? For Arizona, with three new and talented freshman big men, sophomore forward Angelo Chol is battling for a spot in the lineup and he’s had some struggles in the team’s two exhibitions. He’s missed some point-blank shots and has lost some confidence, but head coach Sean Miller is still relying on him to earn minutes while senior leader Solomon Hill is doing his best to keep Chol’s head in the game. Hill, on the other hand, was nearly flawless in his latest outing against Chico State (an Arizona win, 98-60) , with only a late missed free throw and a single turnover as blemishes on his performance.
  2. We’ve all got our favorite Pac-12 blogs, but one of my personal favorites is Coug Center. There are times when it seems like you’ve got to hunt down information about Washington State, and over the years I’ve found Coug Center to be by far the best place to keep up to date with all things WSU. While football is still king there (and a lot of other places) for the time being, Kyle Sherwood, Jeff Nusser and Craig Powers did a great job running down their thoughts on the upcoming season. In light of the Reggie Moore dismissal, topic number one was who will play point guard and they’ve got no better answer than anyone else, other than the fact that Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd are going to be forced into a lot of minutes and a point guard-by-committee situation. Who knows, it could work, but just remembering Arizona State last year without any real point guard leaves plenty of room for doubt.
  3. We’ve talked in the past about Utah’s complete remaking of its roster, and there is little doubt that Larry Krystkowiak has upped the talent level there. But with many other programs around the conference improved as well, the question remains whether his new roster will result in additional wins. Based on a ridiculously week non-conference schedule, one would hope the Utes would be able to notch at least six wins prior to conference play, but can they improve on last year’s three Pac-12 wins? Many around the conference are picking Utah at the back of the pack — they were 12th in the preseason Pac-12 poll — but with capable offensive players like Jarred DuBois, Aaron Dotson and Jordan Loveridge as well as a deeper bench than the Utes have had in a couple of years, you can probably expect their improved talent to be reflected in their final record, even if they’re still almost certainly doomed to a lower-division finish.
  4. Back on the recruiting trail, UCLA landed three-star wing Noah Allen in the Class of 2013 on Tuesday. A one-time Harvard commitment, Allen certainly isn’t the type of player that head coach Ben Howland landed last year — Scout.com recruiting guru Evan Daniels calls him “a four-year guy” who is more of a long-term project than an immediate impact player. Interestingly enough, apparently Howland made the offer without ever having seen Allen play in person. We’re guessing that there won’t be any eligibility concerns with this prospect roughly a year from now.
  5. Lastly, we’ll hop across town where USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has named junior J.T. Terrell as the starter at the two-guard, beating out returning starter Byron Wesley for the job. Wesley is still expected to get plenty of run, both in relief of Terrell and at the other wing spot, but, man, sometimes the things that O’Neill says just makes you shake your head in disbelief. “He’s finally starting to play hard,” said O’Neill, inferring that for the longest time, Terrell wasn’t playing hard. O’Neill then went on to say that Terrell is “more intelligent than I thought he was.” Goodness. It makes you wonder if O’Neill thought he was complimenting the transfer player, or if he was going out of his way to get a few jabs in his ribs. Terrell’s certainly a talented offensive player, but you know in order to play for K.O.’s Trojans, you’ve got to be committed to give good effort on the defensive end. I would suspect Terrell’s defensive intensity, or lack thereof, is where these latest back-handed compliments stem from.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Washington State Cougars

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 30th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Washington State Cougars.

Strengths: This category starts and ends with senior forward Brock Motum. The Australian lefty led the Pac-12 in scoring in 2011-12 and took home the title of most improved player in the conference, but it will be interesting to see how he performs without the team’s best guard to draw some attention on the perimeter. Motum was able to handle just about any big man in league play last year, taking opponents both inside and out. He became famous for some incredible, off-balance jumpers, reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki with some of his shots. With the dismissal of Reggie Moore, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge will start the year at combo guard. Big things are expected of the former Jayhawk, who may just be the best shooter Washington State can put on the roster.

Weaknesses: Behind Motum and Woolridge, it’s tough to look at the Cougars and point out a guy that oozes confidence. Sure, guys like DaVonté Lacy and D.J. Shelton are solid athletes, but it’s going to be a long year when you’re counting on them for big-time production. Ken Bone does have some interesting newcomers to play around with, but what roles they fit into and how much they can immediately contribute will be tough to figure out. Gillette Junior College transfer James Hunter looks to be a banger that will start the year at power forward, but the Cougs are awfully thin after that for someone who can bang on the glass. Shelton and Hunter better not be on the bench at the same time, because things could get ugly down there for Wazzu.

James Hunter (15) Will Have To Avoid The Bench In 2012-13 For The Cougars To Have A Rebounding Presence In The Post (credit: Gillette College)

Non-Conference Tests: The Cougars will face four stiff non-conference tests this season, three of which will all come in a row away from home in late November. Washington State will travel to Malibu to face Pepperdine on November 16, and while the Waves might struggle this season, not many teams venture into Firestone Fieldhouse and come out with an easy win. Just three days later the Cougars will go into the Sprint Center and play a top 5 Kansas squad in front of what will be a 99% Jayhawk-friendly crowd. Less than 24 hours later they’ll play on the same court against either Saint Louis or Texas A&M, two teams that are at least NIT locks this season. Finally, the Cougs get a three game reprieve before having to take on in-state rival Gonzaga on December 5 in Pullman.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 12th, 2012

  1. One of the things we love about college basketball is that every year, there are loads and loads of teams with brand new looks. You’ve got freshmen coming in and transfers and kids back from injuries. The entire makeup of a team can change from year to year, for better or for worse. This year in the Pac-12 is no different, but in some cases, these changes seem to be a bit more extreme than normal, with several teams across the conference ready to unveil a completely remade roster. Today, as practices kick off around the country, we’ll take a look at five of those teams, beginning with Utah, where second-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak welcomes in a roster that returns just two scholarship players from last year’s 6-25 team. Given the depths to which the talent level plunged in Salt Lake City last year, the remake was desperately needed, and Krystkowiak is certain that the team is ready to be much more competitive. With 10 new scholarship faces on the roster, the battle for time is tight and ongoing, with the head man mentioning that the Ute starting lineup may be a shifting five over the course of the year.
  2. As bad as the Utes were last year, USC was even worse, limping (quite literally) home to a 1-17 record. Along the way, the Trojans turned into the walking wounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of players (overstatement is of use here) lost for the season to injury. But not only does Kevin O’Neill have many of those players coming back from last year’s injuries, but he’s got transfers galore and, all told, plenty of talent up and down the bench. Never one for understatement, O’Neill last season called then sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon a future NBA lottery pick, while this year he is going out on a limb and projecting Rice transfer Omar Oraby as a future 12- or 13-year pro, although USC is still waiting on word from the NCAA as to whether he’ll receive a waiver to be able to play this year. But O’Neill is most excited about getting back the services of senior point guard Jio Fontan, whom he calls the heart and soul of the team.
  3. Washington State’s 2011-12 season was slightly more successful than either of the above teams’, but like both USC and Utah, the Cougs will unveil a new-look squad as well. Brock Motum returns after his breakout junior season, as does returning starter DaVonte Lacy and four other players, but things are going to have to be different in Pullman this season. But despite being minus recently-dismissed point guard Reggie Moore, head coach Ken Bone thinks this will be a better team than last year, with the combo of Lacy and Kansas-transfer Royce Woolridge being an upgrade over the would-be senior. And Bone hopes that the Cougs’ underdog status will help the squad “pull together.” Reading between the lines a bit, it seems I may not be the only one who thinks the loss of Moore could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
  4. Oregon advanced to the NIT last season, but after five graduating seniors and three freshmen transferring out of the program last year, the Ducks were in need of a talent infusion of their own. Enter a five-man freshman class, two junior college transfers, and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility), and returnee EJ Singler, for one, is excited about the additional size and athleticism added to Dana Altman’s roster. The number of new players could jump to nine once the football season ends, assuming freshman Arik Armstead joins the team in January, but the number could have even been 10. However, junior college transfer Devon Branch opted not to enroll at UO for the fall semester, instead opting to go the Division II route, which would give him one more season of eligibility than he would have had in Eugene.
  5. The roster makeover for Washington is not as massive as in any of the above four stops, but the Huskies are without their two highest profile stars from last season’s Pac-12 regular season champion. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. left eligibility on the table when they split for the NBA, but it was no secret that last year’s squad underachieved in part due to chemistry issues that never got fully resolved. Lorenzo Romar commented on Twitter that this team has the chemistry and attitude that the coaching staff appreciates, a remark that seems to draw a direct comparison to last year’s squad. Put on your special glasses and it might as well read: “last year’s team had no chemistry because there were too many guys worried about getting the credit.” There’s still plenty of talent up in Seattle, with proven upperclassmen Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye leading the way, so if the intangibles shift a little in the right direction, the 2012-13 edition of the Huskies could be an improvement on last year’s more talented squad.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 11th, 2012

  1. Arizona State’s media day was on Tuesday, and as always, the ASU sports information department does a great job of getting their information out there. As ASU’s director of media relations Doug Tammaro put it, he’s got over 5,000 words on the Sun Devil basketball team, with tons of quotes from head coach Herb Sendek and players Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon. Given the fact that the team is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons (22-40 in the last two years), the Sun Devils have a lot to prove, but just reading through the enthusiasm that Sendek has about this collection of players and the confidence that Carson has in himself and his teammates, it isn’t that hard to envision this team overachieving its way into an upper-division conference finish. A lot would have to break right for that to happen, and the team needs to break through the Murphy’s Law culture that has seemingly taken hold in Tempe, but this ASU team should be an interesting watch all year long.
  2. Elsewhere in Tempe, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic published an interview with ASU sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling on Sunday, and it too paints a picture of a Sun Devil squad ready to surprise people. Gilling, who came out of nowhere to start 18 games for the team and score in double figures eight times in conference play (quite an accomplishment as no better than a third option on a low-scoring team), looks around the roster and sees far more threats to give the opposition problems. Beginning with Carson and Gordon, but also extending to rapidly improving big man Jordan Bachynski and another incoming transfer in Bo Barnes, Gilling sees a completely different team. And, once again, we’ve got testimony from inside the program that Sendek’s promises for a more uptempo approach, including significantly more man-to-man defense, are not just lip service.
  3. Up in Pullman, Washington State is ready to plow ahead without the services of recently dismissed point guard Reggie Moore. Moore was head coach Ken Bone’s first recruit to WSU, but there is no use looking back now for him; he needs to begin to plan for the season without an obvious true point. At first glance it appears that it will be a point-guard-by-committee approach, with sophomore combo guard DaVonte Lacy, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, senior wing Mychal Ladd and sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew all potentially chipping in to help get the Cougars into their offense. And, while we’re on Wazzu for a second, be honest, how many of you knew that former Oregon wing Brett Kingma landed in Pullman? Clearly, some of you did, but somehow this completely escaped my attention. It’s a good get for Bone, even if his freshman year in Eugene was a little bumpy and even if he’ll lose a year of eligibility by transferring within the conference.
  4. UCLA’s media day was yesterday, but it was significantly less revealing, if only because the biggest question about the Bruins’ season – if and when Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will be declared eligible – remains presently unanswerable. So much so that UCLA had their vice chancellor of legal affairs, Kevin S. Reed, monitoring the press conference so that schools officials could remind the media whenever necessary that they wouldn’t be answering any questions about the NCAA review of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility. On a brighter note, however, it was announced that Pauley Pavilion is not only really, really close to being a completed project, but it is also a project that came in $44 million under budget. So, you know, the next time you’ve got a project that is gonna run you some nine-digit dollar amount, I believe UCLA’s got a contractor they can recommend.
  5. We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a less-than-stellar Thursday night affair between Arizona State and Colorado, and that means it is time for Connor and I to renew our prognosticating battle. I made up another game on Connor last week when USC bounced back from a rough start to pull away from Utah in the second half. Last week’s results leave Connor at 35-13 for the year, while I’m two games back at 33-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week (Stanford at Notre Dame) in bold.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Arizona State at Colorado Arizona State Arizona State
    Utah at UCLA UCLA UCLA
    California at Washington State Washington State California
    Oregon State at Brigham Young Brigham Young Oregon State
    USC at Washington USC USC
    Stanford at Notre Dame Notre Dame 38-31 Notre Dame 19-13
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Washington State Week: What To Expect

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 4th, 2012

We’ve gone through the Washington State roster and told you about the returnees and the newcomers, but let’s put it all together today: What does the 2012-13 season hold for the Cougars? Just how good will returnees like Reggie Moore, DaVonte Lacy, and Mike Ladd be, and which of the newcomers will emerge as major contributors? And most importantly, can these Cougs improve upon last year’s CBI appearance? Let’s break out that old crystal ball again and see what it says.

Motum Will Lead The Cougars In Scoring For The Second Straight Year

WSU’s Leading ScorerBrock Motum. No reason we shouldn’t think the Pac-12′s leading scorer in 2011-12 wouldn’t lead his own team in his senior year. With Motum’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor and the fact that he touches the ball so many times on each possession, this is the only pick here. Even with a pair of confident newcomers like Royce Woolridge and Demarquise Johnson who will take a way some of his looks, Motum will still be the go-to guy.

WSU’s MVPRoyce Woolridge. This is a tad bold, but we don’t want to give two awards to Motum even if he may deserve it. Players and coaches called Woolridge the best player on the practice court last season, and the word out of Pullman is that he’s not afraid to shoot the ball. If he can give the Cougars 12 points a night, four rebounds, and maybe a couple steals here and there, Woolridge and Motum will make quite the one-two punch.

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Washington State Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 2nd, 2012

Washington State returns four players who were part of the rotation last year, highlighted by Brock Motum – a preseason candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year – but also extending down to a guard that is back for his senior season after leading the team in minutes per game, a sophomore shooting guard primed to build off a solid freshman campaign, and yet another guard who will probably enjoy a similar role to what he saw last year. We’ll go through all of those guys below, in order of last year’s scoring totals.

Brock Motum Will Be The Key To Any Cougar Success In 2012-13

Brock Motum, Senior, Forward (18.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 0.4 BPG) – After a quiet first two seasons at Washington State, Motum exploded onto the scene in 2012-13. The junior forward took on the minutes left by departing senior DeAngelo Casto, and he showed the Cougar coaching staff immediately what he could do with them. From the very beginning of the year, he introduced a new style of game to the team’s offense. Motum led the team in scoring in the Cougars’ first two games, dropping 17 in a nationally televised contest at Gonzaga, and 23 in their second game against Sacramento State. He took on a “point-center” type role, one where the big man could handle the ball up top and act as a triple threat against opponents. His ability to drive and hit a pull-up jumper made him one of the toughest forwards to defend in the Pac-12, evident by his 18.0 PPG, the conference’s best. Not only a threat to score, but also a force on the glass, Motum pulled down a very respectable 6.4 RPG. Those two feats combined earned him the title of “Most Improved Player” in the Pac-12. Some of Motum’s critics will say he took a lot of defenses by surprise last season, but the truth is, the Cougars were just a tough team to defend. With Faisal Aden and Reggie Moore able to score the ball consistently, Motum was bound to get a few extra looks a game. And he took advantage, making him one of the deadliest players in the league.

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